Tag Archives: Jews

From Russia with Love (?)

22 Apr

jews-must-register-or-face-deportation-ukraine-russia-donetsk-leafletGiven all of the vicious homophobia of Russia and its self-proclaimed Tsar, Vladimr Putin, along with the recent annexation of Crimea and the long-established regional history of misogyny and anti-Semitism, I’m starting to get a bit worried about a possible resurrection of a new USSR.

Last week I learned that following Pesach services a group of masked men (hard not to make a link to the KKK here) were delivering leaflets that instructed Jews to register with the city of Donetsk.  Jews were told they had to register to prove their citizenship and provide a list of all of their assets.  Am I the only one freaking out about this? Is anyone else thinking about Nazi Germany or the old Russian pogroms?

Despite the clear impression they intended to give, the masked bigots were not actually representing the Ukrainian government or the city of Donetsk.  They seem to represent a fringe right-wing group of bigots. Sadly, I can only imagine the trauma caused to these people coming out of the synagogue.

The tensions mounting in the Ukraine are unsettling at best. I struggle with how humans can make space for creating communities to thrive, and how do we prevent communities from being taken over and governed by an autocrat? Certainly, Putin has not been a friend to the Jewish community or the LGBT community. Now with his increased military presence in eastern Ukraine, this is feeling similar to Uncle Joe Stalin’s way of governing.

Cousin Vlad has made stirring speeches referring to “Tsarist borders” for Russia. Given the Crimean annexation, that should be terrifying for anyone paying attention. Do those borders include Latvia? Lithuania? Poland? Finland? Does the simple weight of historical maps trump over a century of evolving national identities, diplomacy, and binding international agreements? Putin seems to think himself a law unto himself. If he gets a nationalist surge behind him, where will it end?

By no means am I encouraging or endorsing we entrench ourselves in yet another war, but I wonder if it would be helpful for NATO to take a strong stand against Putin? The weight of history around how humans treat Jews and gays is very scary for me and I wonder with sadness, have these militants never read a history book?

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Kristallnacht and Veterans Day

11 Nov

kristallnacht-bannerSaturday commemorated 75 years ago that the Nazis started the pogroms throughout Germany and Austria. This night in 1938 witnessed a strategic attack on Jews.  Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — marks the event where Jewish store fronts,  homes, and synagogues had their windows knocked out and smashed.  Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.  The world learned on this night that the Holocaust had now started.  The Nazis were putting into play their “Final Solution.” 

This part of history is exceedingly ugly and painful.  We witnessed mortal racism and homophobia as Nazis assigned yellow stars and pink triangles to those they deemed unfit to live — people like Gad Beck. Sadly, we are currently seeing a rise in anti-Semitism in Germany and Russia.  We are also seeing a rise in homophobia around the world, including Russia, which is hosting the 2014 Olympics.

Thank goodness for all of the veterans and all those that helped to end World War II.  I do believe these veterans are heroes; they fought to ensure that regardless of our differing opinions and beliefs, the one thing that should unite us all is our shared humanity. That bond values those differences and does not try to limit them or take away people’s rights.

Call to action: I charge all people around the world to look for the humanity we all share and to interrupt oppression when we witness it. When we hear anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist slurs, we must interrupt that oppression or we dishonor those who fought to protect and cherish our common humanity and strove to create a level playing field.  We also strip ourselves of human dignity when we practice any form of hate against people who are different from us or collude in our silence with the oppression practiced by others.

For young kids, I would recommend reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.

Hero of the Week Award, September 20: Russell Brand

20 Sep

Russell BrandI am the first to admit that I am not one that has been able to appreciate the work of Russell Brand. I’ll further admit that the only thing I have seen him in was the re-make of  Arthur, which should never have been remade.  When you have a cast like Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, the late Sir John Gielgud, and the late Geraldine Fitzgerald what are the hopes of doing better than that, even with my beloved Helen Mirren?  As it turns out, Russell Brand is a rather impressive young man with a keen awareness of homophobia, class, distribution of wealth, and history.  Bravo, Mr. Brand!

Brand was just recently the recipient of a British GQ Oracle award, which is sponsored by Hugo Boss.  Upon receiving his award, Brand took the opportunity to remind the audience of the deep ties Hugo Boss had to the Nazi Party during WWII.  Hugo Boss not only supported the Third Reich, but made an enormous amount of money making the uniforms for the Nazi soldiers. The uniforms were often made by prisoners of war — a truly horrific irony. Despite Boss’ prohibition from operating the business after the war, he transferred power to a relative and the business continued on its ill-gotten gains. During the push for reparations in the 1990s, the company paid lip service to the effort but refused to publicize any findings regarding their activities and contributed what adjudicators called “a bare minimum” to the reparation fund. What an awful example of soulless corporate greed.

In Brand’s most impressive speech, he also deftly addresses the persecution of gays during WWII — sadly we have a redux in Russia now.  And with great aplomb, Brandon also gives a much needed smack down of classism and the inequitable distribution of wealth.   I have to love Brand’s understanding of power dynamics and how corporations and governments are implicated. Note this portion of his speech as transcribed in the Guardian:

Now I’m aware that this was really no big deal; I’m not saying I’m an estuary [sic] Che Guevara. It was a daft joke by a daft comic at a daft event. It makes me wonder, though, how the relationships and power dynamics I witnessed on this relatively inconsequential context are replicated on a more significant scale.

For example, if you can’t criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that “politician of the year” Boris Johnson has with City bankers – he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor – influence the way he runs our capital?

Sadly, GQ editor Dylan Jones reprimanded Brand on Twitter, stating, “What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.” Brand responded aptly, sticking to his important thesis: “What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews.”

I hope you will be equally as impressed with Russell Brand, as I let him speak for himself here.  I also have to add how much I love Danny Glover for initiating a boycott of Hugo Boss back in 2010, when the company tried to stomp out any signs of unionization.

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